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Jade Fountain closed; Gannucci’s expansion planned

Gannucci's Italian Market and Jade Fountain

Within six months of acquiring the Jade Fountain, Bill Kalligher locked the big red doors to the iconic Chinese restaurant. He reached the decision in September, fed up with a dirty kitchen he says he’s still trying to clean, alleged poor product quality from food suppliers and a box filled with bounced checks from customers.

Kalligher bought Gannucci’s Italian Market in 2011 and the neighboring Jade Fountain this past March. His expressions ranged from exasperated laughter to visible disgust as he reflected on his experience running the Jade, saying he’ll “never eat anything in a Chinese restaurant again.”

Having concluded his experiment of simultaneously running two neighboring eateries, Kalligher said he’ll expand his Italian restaurant into the Jade space, incorporating a gelato bar. A patio and garden is already partially constructed behind the Jade as part of the Gannucci’s expansion.

“I tried, I really did,” Kalligher said of his brief stint operating Jade Fountain. “I would have been more than happy to keep it open, but the filth, the low quality … you wouldn’t believe it. I’m still cleaning.”

Kalligher said his initial food supplier, Twin Cities-based New Wha Ming Trading of MN, delivered food in an unsanitary truck and allowed poultry products to drip onto vegetable products. He said he dumped the company in favor of Sysco Asian Foods, the nation’s largest Asian restaurant supplier.

“They were worse,” he said.

Jade Fountain had been in business since 1968. Founder George Wong sold it in 1997 to Sick Cheung Lee. Lee died in November 2014; five months later his widow, “Tina” Kwok Chun Mak, sold to Kalligher.

Kalligher told Perfect Duluth Day in April he felt the Jade Fountain had gone “downhill” and he wanted to “clean up” and “bring it back to the level of an iconic restaurant.” In the months that followed, those plans changed.

Kalligher said the vibe between his two restaurants was completely different, and the Jade Fountain did not suit his style. He will now focus on expanding and improving Gannucci’s.

“It’s growing,” he said of his combined restaurant and Italian market. “One day it’s going to be something great.”

Kalligher shares ownership of the two buildings and restaurant business with his wife Amanda and his son Joshua.

Gannucci's Mural Update 4-Nov-2015

Artist Tom Napoli has been working on a series of murals on the interior and exterior of Gannucci’s over the past few months. Burgers with an Italian twist are now offered, though they are not yet listed on the menu and considered a work in progress.

As for the expansion space, Kalligher said he’ll continue working to clean the Jade’s kitchen and eventually use it for Gannucci’s. He’ll then remove Gannucci’s kitchen for additional dining and market space.

The bar area and booths at the Jade will be repurposed into a gelato and phosphate bar. A large window will be cut into the front of the building to allow daylight to enter. The Jade’s main dining area will house freezers and other equipment.

Kalligher said Gannucci’s patio behind the Jade building will be ready next summer, and he’ll be planting cedar trees, cherry trees, hostas and general greenery.

“You’re going to swear you’re in another land,” he said.

10 Comments

Rickjf

about 4 years ago

I worked at the Jade Fountain for 5 years when the founder George Wong still operated it, and I must say the place was clean and food quality was top notch. For Kallager to make stupid comments like he will never eat in a Chinese restaurant again just shows what kind of person he must be. RIP Jade Fountain.

Melanie Eider Lindbloom

about 4 years ago

I think this has been the real plan all along.

Nikki Jackson

about 4 years ago

This is ridiculous in my opinion. I think this guy planned to close Jade from the start. He seems greedy. But I am a firm believer in karma and the choices he's made and the negativity he brought to the Jade Fountain, he will have to pay for that. One day karma will make sure of it. 

I grew up on Jade Fountain's Chinese food and it was always amazing; the only time Jade's ever was not top knotch was when this guy took over. When he took over Jade lost its authenticity. I think a big part of that is because this guy has never took true pride in the Jade Fountain and always planned to run it into the ground so his lil Italian wannabe place could expand. Because of what he has done I personally will never give his restaurant any business. I pray for the day karma put his ass in place. Excuse my language. But he truly does have his head up his butt. And if he thinks for a moment that our city doesn't see his true colors, he is sadly mistaken.

[email protected]

about 4 years ago

It's hard not to see offensive stereotypes in these statements, I am afraid.   But I remember when the buffet down the street changed hands, and there were some comments that felt rooted in similar offensive stereotypes.

/sigh.

alannao

about 4 years ago

This backs up my experience a year and a half ago, when my friend's Lo me in order came to the table with ramen noodles as the noodle part, confirmed by asking the waiter person if it was indeed ramen. Sadly, yes it was. That was the last time I went to the Jade.

Special K

about 4 years ago

Jade Fountain has been horrible for at least the past five years.  Dingy, dirty dining room.  Worn out and stained benches.  Random junk and disused buffet equipment tossed to the side or in an unused banquet room, feeding only spiders.  It was a restaurant surviving on nostalgia, run by owners that no longer had the heart to continue, staffed by employees with no will to change or improve, with many better alternatives in a few mile radius.

I have seen the kitchen first hand and can attest to the insurmountable task Bill took on.  Having spoken to him, the plan was always to make the Jade Fountain great again, so he could offer an even broader palette of dishes beyond Gannucci’s Italian.  But Bill also demands, and will only serve, the best stuff he can get his hands on.  (Seriously, the market items in Gannucci’s and the food are amazing.)  He has pictures of how bad the deliveries  for Jade were.  No racism involved, just bad distributors.  On top of that he’s a smart business man and knows when to cut a losing proposition and move in a different direction.  So it makes total sense to me that he’s decided instead on expanding Gannucci’s and building on his strengths.  I for one am not sad to see Jade Fountain close rather than wallow in mediocrity, and look forward to a sweet gelato bar.

barefootknight

about 4 years ago

A bigger better Gannuccis!!!!  This is awesome news.  I had hopes that he would turn the Jade from a crappy Americanized Chinese restaurant into actual authentic Chinese cuisine, but I guess that's a tall order.  I love having Gannuccis in West Duluth.  We need more vibrant growing local spots like this.  Good for them!

jakester

about 4 years ago

I have to admit I haven't been to the Jade in a really, really long time.  When I did go, circa 1982, the food was terrible and, when I asked for mustard for the egg rolls, the server looked at me quizically and then brought out some yellow hot dog mustard.

Ok, I should have gone back at some point but never did, and perhaps the food got a lot better. All that aside I look forward to an expanded Italian restuarant.

Sheila Ballavance

about 4 years ago

I for one am very happy----we have enough Chinese restaurants in this town but more of Gannucci's will be wonderful.  Excellent food, excellent market and I'm sure the expansion will will make it even a more wonderful experience to eat and shop at Gannucci's .     You go, Bill and Amanda.

cosmojr

about 4 years ago

I loved the Jade!  I've ben eating there on Sundays for years.  Sure if you're a food snob I'm sure it never lived up to your expectations.  Having a Chinese style place open for takeout on Sundays is gone for now in the western reaches of Duluth.  Maybe there is room for one elsewhere out west???
Truly a sad day!

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